We have all become much more aware of the dangers from floods and the damage and devastation they can cause. Once upon a time we’d only ever see this kind of weather activity on the sub-continent and in parts of the tropics during the rainy season, but here in the UK, the dangers from flooding are now only too apparent given that they are much closer to home.
Can We Really Prevent Floods From Occurring?
Despite all of the efforts we can make to protect ourselves from the risk of floods, there is no real preventative steps we can take on our own and only with the assistance of larger companies and organisations can we collectively begin to try to put prevention strategies into place.
That said, however, with more homes having been built on or close to natural flood plains over the past decade or so, alongside some people’s desire to live close to the water’s edge then, combined with global warming and what seems to be an ever increasing trend towards warmer and wetter winters. It seems likely that we, as individuals, should be more concerned with protecting our homes as best we can with a view to minimising the effects of floods. Knowing what to do if we’re caught up in one and what to do when the floods have subsided.
The Environment Agency
Like any natural disaster caused by the weather, our best defence in protecting ourselves against floods is to keep a close watch on when and where they might occur, as the more time we have, the more preparation time we’ll have to cope with the outcome the best we can. The Environment Agency, in particular, alongside the Met Office who provide us with our weather forecasts issue Flood Warnings in the event of a flood being possible in a specific area. These warnings are categorised into 4 types:
- Flood Watch – Where there is the possibility of flooding and residents in the predicted areas of a potential flood should make preparations for the risk
- Flood Warning – Where we should expect floods to affect some homes, local businesses and main roads and where residents need to act now
- Severe Flood Warning – Where flooding is expected and where there is an imminent threat to life and property
- All Clear – Where the danger has passed and the flood watches and warnings are no longer in force.
If you are faced with a Flood Warning or Severe Flood Warning, there are certain steps you should take, in order to best protect yourself, your loved ones and your home.
Firstly, you should try to move any vehicles, valuables, pets and any other items you value to safety. You should also alert your neighbours in case they’re not aware of the warnings, particularly the elderly who are extremely vulnerable.
Then, you should put sandbags and/or flood boards in place but still allow for ventilation inside your home. A sandbag placed in the toilet bowl will also prevent backflow. You should plug sinks and baths and weigh the plugs down with some heavy object. Unplug any electrical items and move them upstairs if possible and be ready to turn off your electricity and gas supply if instructed to do so. If you’ve time, you should try to complete all of these tasks in daylight hours as it will be more difficult to accomplish after dark, especially if the power fails.
Listen out for further advice on the radio or you can phone Floodline on 0845 988 1188. Be prepared for the possibility of having to evacuate your home. You might have already decided to do this anyway, once you’ve secured your property and belongings the best you can but for those who stay put, if you’re required to evacuate, you’ll most probably be notified by a visit from the local emergency services or someone from your local authority and you may be required to move into a nearby community or leisure centre or somewhere similar This is for your own safety so it’s important that you co-operate with the emergency services in this regard.
Most home owners will have some kind of buildings insurance cover and, whether you own or rent your home, we should all have home contents insurance too. However, if you live in an area where there is a high degree of risk from flooding, you need to make sure that your home contents cover is enough to cover the loss of everything of value contained within your property because you are at genuine risk of losing it all in the event of a severe flood. You should also find out how much your flood excess is and if you’re covered in the event of having to find temporary accommodation.